Published ONS report 31 May 2018
PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS RELEASE . . . PRESS
Women Against Rape says hundreds of vulnerable victims of rape and other sexual offences are denied statutory help as a result of rules designed to exclude as many victims as possible from compensation.
The new figures we release today come from an analysis of victims we helped to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) or to appeal a refusal in the past five years (2012-2017). We found that victims often cannot apply without help through complex and rigid rules, and that many are so traumatised by the CICA refusal that they don’t appeal.
Of 75 applicants, 20% were refused any award. In most cases the refusals were made despite the attacker having been jailed for the rape. In other cases, women were unable to get their attacker jailed and this was used to refuse them compensation, despite CICA needing a lower standard of proof (on the balance of probabilities) than that required for a criminal conviction (beyond reasonable doubt).
In half these cases, the rules had been set by Parliament, leaving CICA officials no discretionary power, whatever the circumstances. These rules are:
1. “Same Roof Rule”: Victims raped before 1 October 1979 by someone living in their household are not entitled to compensation. Five (6.6%) of the women we worked with were refused under the Same Roof rule. Nationally, 174 such claimants have been refused since 2012. (FOI question, 2017.) These are truly distressing refusals; mostly of people who were raped as children by their own father. Most of them recently got their attacker jailed, after years of suffering, but despite this are still denied compensation.
Alissa Moore, who waived her anonymity, was denied an award because she moved out of the family home before October 1979, thus ending her father’s abuse. She said that when she was refused an award in 2015, “I was so crushed and shocked, it took me a couple of years to recover.”
Another woman’s Same Roof case is listed for the Court of Appeal on 13-14 June.
2. Victims with criminal convictions are often refused compensation – 11% of applicants we helped had been refused or suffered a substantial reduction of compensation under this rule. Nationally, figures obtained by Harriet Agerholm of The Independent show at least 398 victims of sex abuse have been refused payments since January 2015 because they had been convicted of a crime.
Kim Mitchell waived her anonymity when she was refused an award some months ago, for sexual assault when she was eight by her teacher. This refusal was based on an unspent conviction – she was given a community sentence for threatening her employer who had withheld a substantial amount of wages due. She said, “I didn’t commit a crime aged eight. The disbelief and injustice I faced has been just as traumatizing as the assault itself.”
Among other cuts to the Scheme in 2012, Parliament made rules even more punitive. Now, applicants can’t get compensation if they have any unspent criminal conviction, even for minor offences such as not paying a TV license, underage drinking, or a minor altercation – offences not serious enough to send one to prison. This is punishing very vulnerable victims who were raped or sexually assaulted as children, like Kim Mitchell. It is unjust to deny compensation for the violent crime of rape for such minor misdeeds. Rape victims are punished twice: first by criminal proceedings against us, and then by the compensation scheme. Imagine if everyone with a minor conviction was suddenly refused NHS treatment, housing or schooling!
An interim report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse released in April recommended that the Same Roof Rule be abolished and that criminal convictions resulting from abuse should not be used to deny compensation.
In the other half of our cases, victims fell foul of CICA’S harsh discretionary and biased decision-making. Echoing Theresa May’s hostile environment for immigrants, decisions at CICA have similarly become less compassionate, under the 2012 drive to cut costs. So much for government claims to support victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Rules that give CICA wide discretion are often used in a discriminatory way against victims of sexual crime, such as:
• being deemed to have consented to sex with an adult man despite being well below the age of consent (a 2017 campaign forced them to stop this);
• not applying within the two-year limit;
• pulling out before trial (called “not co-operating with a prosecution”);
• being disbelieved, sometimes on the basis of hostile police evidence following a careless or biased investigation.
Last year Dr Olivia Smith, of Anglia Ruskin University, published research having interviewed 25 independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs) who had helped thousands of rape victims. Like us, Smith found that eligibility rules “impact more on vulnerable survivors.”
Immoral conduct like soliciting should not be used to reject claims, but some of the ISVAs Smith spoke to said this regularly occurs. Sex workers are among those who face social stigma, including at CICA. This echoes our experience that prejudiced CICA officers can unfairly deny victims of violence an award. While some victims are considered blameless, others are held partly responsible for being attacked, labelled “bad conduct” by CICA. This is just victim-blaming, with judgements dividing women into “good” and “bad” victims. Nobody should be blamed for sexual violence against them.
WAR’s campaign for change represents hundreds of victims across the UK, and their supporters. Spokesperson Lisa Longstaff said,
“There is ample evidence of a pattern of discrimination against victims of sex crimes. We can’t allow this institutional injustice to continue. In campaigning together, survivors learn about each other’s cases, make connections and find they are not alone in having been refused. We spoke out when Parliament harshened the rules in 2012. Now it must revoke them.”
We win 95% of claims on first application or on appeal, but many women have nobody to help them. WAR wrote to the government in July raising five punitive rules under which victims of rape are unjustly refused compensation. The MOJ replied that it has no plan to address these issues. However, last year they backed down following a public outcry after five national charities publicised that CICA had denied compensation to over 700 people raped when they were under 16, claiming they had consented, despite being under the legal age of consent.
In the age of #MeToo and #Time’s Up social media campaigns, government claims to care about sexual and domestic violence are not credible. We have sent an Open Letter signed by over 20 organisations and over 40 lawyers, academics and other individuals calling on government to ensure compensation is no longer denied to victims of rape and other violence.
NOTE to Editors: Since 1964, CICA has administered State payments to victims of crime, providing cash help according to their injuries. Given that the conviction rate for reported rape is just 6%, compensation may be the only official acknowledgement available to most victims. Official acknowledgement is vital for healing and future wellbeing. The money can help with costs resulting from injury, for example, specialist health treatments. CICA’s total spending has dropped significantly – from £440m in 2012 to £143m last year. [Source: The One Show, BBC TV, 20 March 2018]
1. The Rule was overturned but was not made retrospective for crimes that occurred before 1 October 1979.
2. The introduction to the online guidance for the 2012 Scheme says it is to compensate “blameless victims of violent crime”.
Recent cases in which WAR assisted victims to appeal and to speak out
Kim Mitchell was refused compensation for sexual abuse by her teacher when she was eight. CICA said her minor unspent conviction made her ineligible. On review, CICA upheld its refusal.
Alissa Moore, whose father was jailed in 2015 for 24 years for multiple child rape, was refused compensation as the crimes were before 1 October 1979 when they lived in the same house (‘Same Roof’ rule). Her sister whose abuse continued after 1 October 1979 won compensation.
Ms A, now in her 50s had been raped at age 13 by her adult brother, and she bore a severely disabled child. Years later (after their mother died) she reported it, and on DNA evidence the man got a 25 year sentence. She was refused compensation as they briefly lived in the same house at the time of the rape (‘Same Roof’ rule). An appeal upheld the refusal.
In 2016 WAR gave evidence in a path-breaking judicial review that overturned a 40% reduction made to a woman who had pulled out before the trial of her rapist husband under pressure. She had been jailed for perverting the course of justice for what the CPS called a ‘false retraction’. CICA had ruled that she failed to cooperate with the prosecution by retracting her truthful complaint of rape. The Guardian reported, ‘“We hope the CICA will accept the significant trauma this crime has caused,” said David Malone, the barrister, who acted pro bono, along with Adrian Waterman QC and solicitor Mike Hayward at Woodfines.’ He said the case clarified the law for CICA and ‘…Never again should the CICA put victims in the same position.’ However, the judge was unable to reinstate a further 30% reduction for two minor driving convictions in the traumatic months after her release from prison.
In 2015 WAR represented Ms B at a judicial review to challenge judgements by the police and the CICA appeal panel dismissing rape as ‘rough sex’. She had suffered injuries from the rape. The judge upheld her right to compensation, and sent it back to CICA for another hearing, but she was too traumatised to continue and withdrew.
A girl with mental health problems aged 13 was raped by an adult man who plied her with vodka. She had been deemed by the CICA to have consented, although she was below the legal age of consent and he had been convicted of giving alcohol to a minor. At her appeal the police gave evidence against her, and she was cross examined aggressively by the CICA lawyer. She was suicidal. We made a formal complaint. With the help of Duncan Lewis solicitors this refusal was overturned at judicial review, and she finally won an award.
A young woman raped by a cab driver was denied 30% of her compensation award as she had been later prosecuted for driving while marginally over the drink-drive limit. With our help on appeal the reduction was lowered to 20%.
Ms C who delayed applying to CICA until the trial process was over had been denied compensation because it took her over CICA’s two year limit. It is common for rape trials to take over two years to conclude. Police generally advise women to wait, as defence lawyers often raise compensation as a motive to lie. WAR helped her appeal, and she won.
Ms D whose domestic rape had not been investigated properly complained to the police. Unusually, the complaint was upheld. She was refused compensation on grounds that the CPS had ruled there was insufficient evidence to take it to trial. On appeal, she argued that the CICA is supposed to apply a lower standard of proof than the CPS and courts. She won on appeal.
We helped Ms E to fill in the application form, as she was too traumatised to do it. She won an award. Her foster father ran a children’s home, and had raped her over many years as a young child. She said, “Why do I have to prove myself to CICA, when my rapist was convicted?”
Ms F was raped by her date. She did not report it at the time as she assumed she would not be believed. She came forward when he was convicted of violence against two other women. But the investigating police officer made sexual advances to her, and she was too traumatised to continue, so she withdrew from the investigation. When she applied to CICA they refused her any award because she had failed to co-operate with the prosecution. We helped her appeal, but our written submission in her support did not succeed. She got nothing.
Please contact WAR to arrange interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org
www.againstrape.net Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX Tel: 020 7482 2496 Fax: 020 7267 7297
Family Courts are failing to recognise and protect survivors’ human rights by not giving victims of domestic abuse a safe and fair hearing which is putting their children’s safety at risk, according to a joint report by Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University of London.
30 May 2018
Survivors of domestic abuse face a lack of protections within family courts according to a new report from Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University of London.
The report, “What about my right not to be abused?” Domestic abuse, human rights and the family courts, found that nearly a quarter of suvivors (24 per cent) reported that they had been cross-examined by their abusive ex-partner during court hearings, which breaches survivors’ human right to be free from degrading treatment.
The report also uncovered systematic gender discrimination and a culture in the family courts that silences women by failing to uphold the human rights of survivors.
[From what the report reveals about the bias towards men in family courts, more needs to change than simply stopping abusers cross examining their victims in court, which the government has accepted but delayed enforcing for many months now – see more about the report’s findings here https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2018/hss/family-courts-failing-to-uphold-human-rights-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse-according-to-queen-mary-report.html.]
BY TOBY PORTER
Historic child abuse victims are contemplating employing a top human rights lawyer after it emerged some of them will get the same compensation as people who were in care homes the same length of time but did not suffer abuse.
More than 400 victims of an organised paedophile ring within Lambeth’s children’s homes, going back as far as the 1950s, have now applied for payments under the town hall’s redress scheme.
But it has emerged in recent weeks that everyone who was placed in the homes for six months or more will get £10,000, whether or not they were victims of the ring.
Those who were just placed there for the same six-month period, but were not racially or sexually abused, will get the same £10,000 compensation.
Some people, who had previously been assessed as being entitled to, for example, £6,000 or £8,000 compensation for sexual or racial abuse they suffered, are not getting that extra compensation if they have already had their £10,000 payment for being in “harm’s way” – which anyone who was in the homes for more than six months is entitled to.
Some people assessed as entitled to £20,000, because of the abuse they suffered, are now getting another £10,000 on top of their £10,000 “Harm’s Way Payment” (HWP). But they are unhappy that they will not receive the £20,000 on top of the HWP.
… see more at
|Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) was founded in 1991. Women Against Rape (WAR) was founded in 1976. Together the two organisations have worked closely with women in detention, particularly in Yarl’s Wood IRC, over many years documenting the traumatic impact of rape and other violence on women’s asylum and immigration cases and helping women win justice and safety. BWRAP and WAR have been the primary support and vehicle by which women detainees have been able to publicise their complaints about the treatment and conditions inside detention.
In 2005 BWRAP and WAR contributed to “A Bleak House in Our Times: An Investigation into Women’s Rights Violations in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre”, which found that over 70% of women inside were victims of rape or other sexual violence prior to being detained. In 2015 the two organisations published “Rape and Sexual Abuse in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre”, documenting incidents of abuse of women detainees by guards over a decade.
CONDITIONS IN DETENTION AND TREATMENT BY GUARDS
• Conditions in detention are harsh. Survivors or rape and other violence who are traumatised, suffer particularly from the isolation and abuse of detention. We have seen some groups say that detention serves no purpose. We disagree. Based on what women describe to us we have no doubt that a primary aim of detention is to inflict harm onto people with the purpose of instilling fear in them and others; that is a form of domestic terrorism.
• Women’s complaints include the torment and injustice of indefinite detention, being separated from children and other family and friends, violence from guards, being denied much-needed health care, inadequate, inedible food and having their asylum claims sabotaged by guards. In some cases, a self-help guide by Legal Action for Women, which we send to every woman that contacts us, has been confiscated and was only returned after protests.
• Violence during enforced deportations continues. We work closely with the All African Women’s Group, and one of their members was recently deported. She was strapped across her chest into the seat and had two guards, one on each side holding her down. She suffers from extremely high blood pressure and she was trying to call out and signal that she was in terrible distress. Eventually, an air steward intervened. She arrived in her country of origin weak and traumatised and later described to us by phone that nearly died. The 24 March audio recording of a man in distress during a deportation confirms that violence from guards is common.
• In February 2018, women and men detainees in Yarl’s Wood went on hunger strike raising demands which we list below. We urge the Home Affairs Committee to act on these demands.
• Bail applications to be speeded up: Legally they should only take 3-5 days to come to court. Delays of up to a month are common.
• Amnesty for those who have lived in the UK 10 years and more.
• End indefinite detention so that no-one stays inside for longer than 28 days.
• End Charter flights. These are inhumane because women get no prior notifications and no time to make arrangements with family members.
• No more re-detention. No-one should be re-detained if you are complying with the law.
• Stop separating families. Some women inside are married or have British partners and children outside.
• No detention of people who came to the UK as children. They should not be punished for their parents’ immigration histories.
• The beds need to be changed. Some of us have been here for a year on the same bed and they are the most uncomfortable beds.
• LGBT+ people’s sexuality to be believed. It should be understood that explaining your sexuality is difficult.
• Fit emergency alarms in every room in the detention centre. Only some rooms have them, and people have got very ill in places where they can’t call for help.
• Access to proper healthcare. Women with serious conditions have been left for days without treatment.
• Nutritious food.
• Release people with outstanding asylum and immigration applications.
The hunger striker’s statement describes conditions inside as “torture”:
“At any point an officer could turn up and take your room mate; you’re constantly on edge, not knowing what will happen next. Those who are suicidal have their privacy taken away because officers come in without warning. You don’t know if an officer is coming to check on you or take you away. Our rooms are searched at random and without warning; they just search first and explain later.”
• None of the serious issues which hunger strikers are raising over and over again have been addressed or investigated with any sense of urgency.
RAPE AND SEXUAL ABUSE.
• BWRAP and WAR’s 2015 Dossier Rape and Sexual Abuse in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre documented serious abuse by guards that Serco, the company that continues to run Yarl’s Wood, had either ignored or actively covered up. The situation we documented has not changed. Yarl’s Wood remains open and Serco remains in charge. Shamefully in 2014 the government renewed its contract to run Yarl’s Wood.
• Our Dossier contained complaints from current and former detainees, collected from hundreds received between 2005 and 2015 including:
• A rape survivor from Uganda reported a male guard entering her room when she was semi-naked, causing her to be re-traumatised.
• Several women reported that strip searching and suicide watch made them feel humiliated: “Male guards are present when women are strip searched.” “If you are put on suicide watch the guards watch you when you go to the toilet, they come into your room when you are sleeping. I woke up and a guard was standing over me shining a light in my face. I was very scared.”
• A pregnant woman reported a guard repeatedly propositioning her for sex and witnessed the same happening to other women: “He flirted with me. I was scared, fragile and pregnant. The guards double date the women. Some women believe that a guard has their best interests at heart but they are easily taken in because they have no other option to get help. Guards give the impression that they have the power to get women released.”
• Some women reported that guards preyed on their vulnerability and desperation to abuse them. “If you have to open your legs you will. You think that is the only way that you are able to speak to your family. You have to give in.”
FALSE CLAIMS THAT CONDITIONS IN DETENTION HAVE IMPROVED
• In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee (20 March 2018) Serco claimed that conditions inside Yarl’s Wood had improved. The Serco representatives cited evidence given before them from the organisation Women for Refugee Women that women inside Yarl’s Wood were no longer complaining about the conditions but only about the process:
“We have got better over the last two to three years and the debate among the NGOs is now less about Serco running a place that is cruel and inhumane to saying that conditions are “good” in the Centre and that the main complaints about are the process that people are in.”
• We strongly disagree with these claims. The hunger strike and list of demands from women inside cited above confirm that women are still suffering serious injustices and abuse.
“ADULTS AT RISK” POLICY
• The new “Adults at Risk” policy issued in September 2016 was meant to address the public outcry about victims or rape and other torture suffering further trauma as a result of detention in the UK. But the policy was almost unanimously criticised as a step backwards.
• Women for Refugee Women (WFRW) were the only organisation to publicly welcome the policy on the grounds that it appeared to concede to some of their proposals on detention. Other prestigious organisations providing legal and other assistance to people in detention called for “an urgent review before the policy was implemented” on the grounds that the new policy put vulnerable people at more risk of detention. It defined “torture” in a more limited way (excluding victims of domestic violence and violence by “non state agents”).
• This change was clearly sexist in that women are more likely to have suffered domestic violence and/or have the torture and other violence they suffered assessed as “non political”. It also gave the Home Office the power to prioritise ‘any immigration control factors’ over a person’s vulnerability. We immediately saw a change in that more rape and domestic violence victims were detained or found it harder to get released.
• One women who contacted Women Against Rape from Yarl’s Wood was refused bail even though she reported to medical staff that she was suffering nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD because Yarl’s Wood reminded her of being held in detention in Uganda (where she suffered multiple gang rape by soldiers). Women Against Rape’s independent expert evidence about her experiences was dismissed and instead assertions made by medical staff that detention wasn’t having a negative impact were relied on to keep her in detention.
• As the Committee will know the “Adults at Risk” policy was in October 2017 ruled unlawful. We are calling for it to be scrapped altogether.
DEPORTATION IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO DETENTION
• We note that there is a push in some quarters for the alternative to detention to be an increase in so-called voluntary returns. The Home Office is spending over £30 million, including on funding voluntary organisations and charities, to manipulate and force asylum seekers and refugees to ‘volunteer’ to be deported. There is widespread and growing opposition to this. Whatever recommendations the Committee makes it cannot be acceptable for detention to be reduced by fast tracking people out of the UK regardless of the risks they may face on return.
· We support the demands of the hunger strikers listed above and we urge the Home Affairs Committee to press for their implementation.
· We take our lead from women asylum seekers who are demanding an end to detention and deportation.
We work closely with the All African Women’s Group, a 100 strong group of women asylum seekers. In a recent statement they commented:
“We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK. We demand the right to asylum, safety and protection.”
Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape
|Brigitte’s pro-bono legal team at Kingsley Napley have just announced that they will cover the full cost of her daughters air fares!
Brigitte is overwhelmed by the kindness and the generosity, not only of her solicitors, but of everyone who has been moved to make immediate donations. A further £172 has been received so far. These and any further donations will be used to cover additional/inevitable costs incurred by moving from the DRC and settling here in London.
Thank you all for your care and support for Brigitte and her children. We will be back in touch once they are with us!
Black Women’s Rape Action Project.
Brigitte fled the Democratic Republic of Congo having been detained and tortured in prison by the authorities for her own and her family’s involvement in the opposition movement. Once in the UK she spent seven years fighting for the right to stay whilst doing what she could to find her five children who were lost to her.
In 2013, with BWRAP’s help, Brigitte won indefinite leave to remain but was denied the right to automatic family reunion. Later that year, miraculously, she found two of her daughters alive in DRC, but living in terrible conditions. She wanted to bring them to Britain, but couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer. BWRAP was able to secure pro bono representation from Katie Newbury at Kingsley Napley and Rebecca Chapman at 2 Garden Court. Applications for family reunion were made in May 2016, but rejected three months later. None of the evidence so painstakingly gathered was addressed. Statements from her daughters detailing their vulnerability to destitution, the history of the abuse they had suffered after Brigitte fled, and the traumatic impact that ongoing separation had on them, were dismissed and ignored.
Brigitte appealed. BWRAP and Women Against Rape gave witness testimony at her hearing and Brigitte was supported by 19 women from AAWG all crammed into a tiny court. Unlike some judges who dislike public scrutiny, Judge Lingam thanked everyone for attending.
Finally in March 2018, Judge Lingham granted Brigitte the right to family reunion in Britain – a monumental victory. It could never have happened without a mother who refused to give up, a dedicated team of women campaigners and a legal team all ready to put their expertise and their hearts into the struggle together. Brigitte says:
“I’ve watched other mothers like me live for the moment they’re precious children come back. Words cannot express what we feel, but we know that no mother or child anywhere in the world should have to suffer so much to live together.”
To donate, please mark your donation: “Brigitte’s Appeal”
Bank transfer: HSBC Account name: Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Account No: 61635581 Sort Code: 40-04-04
Or via PayPal: Black Women’s Rape Action Project.
More information: Tel 020 7482 2496, email email@example.com
|Rt Hon. David Gauke
Secretary of State for Justice
6 June 2018
Dear David Gauke
We collectively represent the experience and demands of thousands of survivors of rape, domestic violence and sex crimes suffered as children or adults.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is discriminating against victims of sexual crimes – even in some cases where our attacker was sent to prison. Winning justice and compensation is official recognition and a crucial step to recovery. It is particularly important for those whose attacker evaded prosecution – the vast majority of rape and domestic violence survivors.
There are several ways in which the Scheme should be updated. We appeal to your government to urgently change the following rules and practices:
1. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) denies compensation to victims who delayed reporting to the police – Paragraph 23.
2. Victims below 16, the legal age of consent, are denied compensation.
3. Living under the ‘same roof’ with your attacker before October 1979 disqualifies you from receiving compensation – Paragraph 19.
4. Victims of rape who have criminal convictions are denied compensation – Paragraphs 25-27.
5. Time limit – Paragraphs 87-89.
6. Victims have to co-operate with the prosecution as far as reasonably possible – Paragraph 23.
7. There is no legal aid and unrepresented survivors can face hostile and upsetting questioning by CICA lawyers.
Compensation is often the only official acknowledgement of rape we get, given the low conviction rate of 6%. An award can speed recovery, as many women suffer catastrophic mental and physical injuries. Patients struggle to get treatment from the depleted NHS and dwindling therapeutic services – many face years on a waiting list and rationed appointments. In addition, we suffer life changing impacts such as losing a job, eviction, marital breakdown, being unable to cope with children, fear of public transport . . .
The basic award for rape is a mere £11,000, and this does not stretch far. Amounts should be increased, and decisions speeded up. There is a minefield of rules which put people off, as described above. Most don’t even know the Scheme exists or applies to them.
signed so far by the following organisations:
and the following individuals:
Adrian Williamson QC, Keating Chambers
and 24 other individuals
Add your Organisation or law firm by emailing us –
Please return signed to Women Against Rape via email firstname.lastname@example.org
www.againstrape.net Twitter: #AgainstRape Phone: 020 7482 2496
 ‘Hundreds of sexual assault victims refused compensation for minor convictions’ Independent; ‘Rape victims denied compensation for petty convictions’ – Guardian and ‘Hundreds of rape victims denied compensation’ Scottish Herald
We are the All African Women’s Group. Many of us have been in detention. We know the terrible impact it has. Women are on hunger strike right now against the torture of detention. We want an end to detention,but we do
not want a worse alternative. We object particularly to the Family Returns Process
Women for Refugee Women (WfRW) are saying that the Family Returns Process (FRP) should be extended to all asylum seekers. Their report The Way Ahead (2017) describes FRP as an “Area of Success to Build on in the UK”. Interviewed on Woman’s Hour last week their spokeswoman said: “We now have this process called the Family Return Process which supports families with children under 18 to stay in the community up to the point they actually leave the UK, so yes there needs to be a system but that system doesn’t need to include detention.”
WfRW are having a lobby of parliament on 8 March and we are worried that the Family Returns Process will be put forward to members of parliament as what women asylum seekers want.
We are against the Family Returns Process because its main focus is to deport us. It coins the words “support” and “engagement” as a cover for enforced removals. We do not accept that people should have to go back.
A report of the FRP says: “While some organisations believe families who want to stay here should never be returned home, they are few in number.” We are not few in number and our voices should be heard because we know best what horrors we face on return. We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK.
What we need are committed reliable lawyers to help us with our cases to overcome the terrible injustice we face. Most of the time when we make an application to the Home Office we are disbelieved, no matter what we say and what evidence we have. We want help enforcing our rights to be treated fairly as victims of rape and other torture and as vulnerable people. The Home Office has absolutely no interest in justice.
The FRP has four stages:
- ‘Family return conference’ to discuss any barriers to return.
- ‘Family departure meeting’ to discuss the family’s views about their options.
- ‘Required return’ where the family make their own way to the airport.
- ‘Ensured return’ reviewed by an “Independent Family Returns Panel”.
THIS PANEL IS NOT INDEPENDENT – it is funded by the Home Office. As a last resort detention for up to a week and enforced return is used.
The FRP says children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention”. Guidelines for restraining children are based on those used in secure units which include “the deliberate infliction of pain”.
The FRP report slanders mothers and accuses them of child abuse for not agreeing to enforced return: “Children have been subjected to unacceptable pressure from parents not to co-operate with Home Office officials and where such cases occur it is a form of child abuse.” How many children have been and will be taken from their parents with this excuse?
The FRP also slanders lawyers saying that “legal representatives lodge legal objections to removal at the last minute in order, it seems, to frustrate the process.” How dare they say that. We are women who have suffered rape and other torture and the Home Office makes it as difficult as possible for our case to be heard. Legal aid cuts have made it almost impossible to find reliable lawyers to help us. When we have the good fortune to find a lawyer to intervene they accuse us of abusing the system – not that the system abuses us.
- An end to detention and the immediate release of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people. Meet the hunger strikers demands.
- Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure people get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.
- No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.
Signed: All African Women’s Group (80 members)
Supported by: Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Brighton Anti-Raids Network; Brighton Migrant Solidarity; Brighton Plan C; Demilitarise King’s, Detained Voices; End Deportations; Jollof Café (Brighton); KCL Action Palestine, Legal Action for Women; Lesbian & Gays Support the Migrants; RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research); SOAS Detainee Support Group;Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group; Women Against Rape;Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike; North East London Migrant Action (NELMA); Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London
Please join us on 8 March, International Women’s Day. We will taking part in the speak out called by the Global Women’s Strike to put the Family Court on Trial (details below).
We have seen a massive rise in calls for help from mothers whose children are being taken into care or even adoption, when they report rape or domestic violence. They are routinely disbelieved or blamed for causing their children “emotional harm” while the perpetrators get away with it. The drive to prioritise fathers’ ‘rights’ overrides all other considerations, with violent fathers being given contact and residence. Children and mothers are being abused and even killed as a result.
Poverty imposed by austerity cuts – 86% of which have targeted women, depriving us of escape routes – is also used to accuse mothers, especially single mothers, of ‘neglect’ and take our children.
Mothers all over the UK are fighting for our rights to care for and protect our children from this child abuse by the state. Please bring your evidence.
Women Against Rape
Facebook event here. Follow us on Twitter @WomenStrike.
STOP PRESS: Emergency Demo Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers
4-5pm, Wed 28 Feb, outside the Home Office, Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF.
Called by Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants: co-hosted with All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Docs Not Cops, End Deportations, Right to Remain, SOAS Detainee Support, The London Latinxs, and others
Update: Yarl’s Wood Hunger Strike . . . for immediate release
“They’re trying to break us down but we’re not about to give in to them or their threats”
“Theresa” currently on hunger strike told us that they are being denied the right to fax statements about their conditions and demands. She said “we are about 20 women and 14 men taking complete hunger strike . . . yesterday our statement was confiscated by an officer called Claire. Today we tried to send faxes of our demands from [the] health care [area] where we are holding a silent protest. After we faxed, 2 officers came following us and tried to take our papers away . . . I refused to give them – tell the director to come pick them from me himself.”
Theresa says that threats have been made by the director Steven Hewer to take “trouble –makers” to prison – “protesters are being called to the Home Office one by one, supposedly to address our demands but instead they are updating people on their individual cases. . . our protest is a peaceful quiet one and we don’t appreciate having the threat of HMP prisons directed at us”.
Over and over again women protesting in Yarl’s Wood have been targeted for punishment– and the same goes for protesters against detention around the world. See our sister Maru who has been targeted for deportation in the US.
From mothers threatened with being deported without their children to rape survivors who haven’t been able to speak about what they suffered in the “hostile environment” in which asylum claims are considered, women in Yarl’s Wood face removal without having had a fair hearing. Sexism, racism and other discrimination result in the Home Office routinely refusing to believe women, flouting its own instructions about how it should treat “Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim”. Legal aid cuts deprive women of legal representation and advice, and vital evidence to pursue appeals, instead judges “rubber stamp” Home Office refusals flouting their own guidance on how they should treat “vulnerable witnesses”. Their cases having been unjustly closed, women face destitution, detention and deportation.
- Shorter bail request periods [quicker bail hearings]
2. Amnesty for those who have lived in the UK 10 years and above
- End indefinite detention
- End Charter flights
5. No more re-detention
6. End systematic torture in Yarl’s Wood
7. Stop separating families
8. No detention of people who came to the UK as children
9. The beds need to be changed
10. LGBT+ persons’ sexuality be believed
11. Fit emergency alarms in every room in the detention centre
12. Give us access to proper healthcare
- Give us proper food to look after our diets
- Release people with outstanding applications
- We want to speak to Alistair Burt MP for the constituency
We also call for:
- An end to detention; immediately release mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people.
- An independent investigation into claims of rape and other sexual abuse against women held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre
- Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure women and men get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office’s racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.
- An official investigation into what happens to people who are deported, including those deported from the unlawful Detained Fast Track, so that they can get the help they need.
- No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.
- Close down Yarl’s Wood and detention centres everywhere!
Those in detention have the right to be here. Those of us on hunger strike have the right to be here: count the contribution that African and other third world people have made over hundreds of years to the wealth in the UK.
Some recent press coverage:
100 Immigrant Women Are on Hunger Strike at a Notorious UK Detention Center
Yarl’s Wood female hunger striker facing deportation tomorrow
Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project on Yarl’s Wood hunger strike